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1) Life Changes as a cause of stress

Life Changes are significant events which require a lot of adjustment too someones life. These events cause stress. Examples of these would be Marriage, Childbirth or a change of job.

Holmes and Rahe’s “SRRS”

Holmes and Rahe devised the SRRS, or Social readjustment rating scale, to measure the amount of stress someone faces from life changes.

43 life changes were given a school based on how much stress they cause, known as Life Change Units. For example death of a spouse had the highest LCU of 100, whereas marriage had 50 LCU, and a minor violation of the law scored the lowest, 11 LCU points.

You would be asked to add up all the events from the scale that you have experienced over a set period of time, and from this you can see how much stress could be caused by life changes.

Research into life changes as stressors

Rahe et al (1970)

AIM – To test the link between life changes and stress related illness

PROCEDURE – Used a questionnaire (similar to the SRRS) given to 2664 men on 3 US Navy ships. Over 6 months their health was checked.

FINDINGS – They found a small but significant link between the number of LCUs and the health of the men.

CONCLUSION – Although there is a link between LCUs and stress there are too many variables affecting stress levels for it too be used as a “universal measure of stress”.


A “spurious relationship” – this only shows a correlation between the findings, there is no casual link between life changes and stress

Individual Differences – People react differently to these life changes, for example some people may have been prepared for a death of a spouse, perhaps making it less stressful than a sudden loss.

Life changes and daily hassles – Major life changes are normally quite rare, so minor daily hassles are more likely to be causing the stress. DeLongis et al  found a link between health and daily hassles but not life events.

Positive and negative life changes – Research shows that any life-changing event has the potential to damage health. However some critics say that only unscheduled and uncontrolled changes are really harmful.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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